Reprinted from yesterday's late edition.
Superb programming is not exactly an American Ballet Theater hallmark, where ballets are often thrown together for expediency rather than esthetic compatibility or balance. But it would be hard to surpass Tuesday night's all-Stravinsky lineup - three masterworks, both on musical and choreographic levels, with all manner of historical and stylistic interconnections.
First came two restored Michel Fokine ballets, "Petrouchka" and "The Firebird," joint reminders of the exciting early days of the Ballets Russes, and that grand marriage of the arts Serge Diaghilev set out to consummate.
From the moment the house drape rises on "Petrouchka," revealing the extraordinary act curtain by Alexandre Benois with its flying goblins against a nightmare sky, you know you're in another world. And the richly animated opening scene, so exquisitely detailed in its portrait of a Petersburg street fair, confirms it. The ballet was one of the key exhibits in Fokine's celebrated reform program, calling for greater naturalism and dramatic integrity.
The performance was a mixed bag. John Prinz played Petrouchka, the pathetic puppet, like a trapped gnat on a windowpane, forlorn but not overly sympathetic. Eleanor D'Antuono's Dancer stressed impassivity, which is one way of doing it, but her dancing seemed a bit heavy-footed. William Carter's Charlatan was splendidly sinister. The musical score, however, received nowhere near its due, in a reading that was not only imprecise but rhythmically flaccid.
The newly mounted "Firebird," with its gorgeously atmospheric Gontcharova decor, is a more static, less dramatically trenchant ballet, but its picture book imagery is unforgettable. The company has not quite assimilated the choreography as yet, but Natalia Makarova, reminding one of Plitsetskaya with her flamboyance, danced brilliantly as the Firebird, and Erik Bruhn made a muchness out of his meager role. As the Kostchei, Marcos Paredes did wonders with prehensile talons and a gimpy gait.
Space forbids doing justice to Jerome Robbins' sublime "Les Noces," a modern, abstract echo of the Fokine tradition. Marianna Tchekassky and George de la Pena made an ideal bridal couple, and Frank Smith was particularly fine in a generally excellent cast.